North Adams to `spruce' itself up via 800 tree plantings

The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition has announced a new initiative to plant about 800 trees across private and public property in North Adams. Organizers hope to see the three-year project take root in the spring.

NORTH ADAMS — North Adams is about to get a little greener.

The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition has announced a new initiative to plant about 800 trees across private and public property in North Adams.

"Trees in urban and suburban neighborhoods provide many benefits to the people who live near them, including improving air and water quality, reducing energy costs, and increasing the physical and social well-being of residents," said Bret Beattie, the coalition's tree planting coordinator. "Trees reduce heating and cooling costs, help to control stormwater runoff, and help cool city streets on hot summer days."

Organizers hope to see the three-year project take root in the spring. Before planting, the coalition will host a community meeting to garner public input.

The project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service and will be implemented in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the city's Department of Public Works.

Large swaths of North Adams qualify as environmental justice communities — a designation that will inform local organizers as they set out to plant trees.

Environmental justice is centered around reducing pollution in communities that are disadvantaged either economically — like North Adams — or by having a high population of minorities and non-English speakers.

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Beattie said the focus will be on urban areas.

"A tree is most impactful in an area with less trees," Beattie said.

Mayor Thomas Bernard lauded the program.

"This project provides an incredible opportunity to enhance our residential neighborhoods and our downtown by planting trees," Bernard said in a statement. "I'm grateful to the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition for leading this effort, which represents a terrific collaboration among local, state and federal agencies; the nonprofit, education and government sectors; and local residents interested in neighborhood improvement, environmental sustainability, resource management, and the natural beauty of our city and our region."

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.